The What, When, Why, Who & Which?!
Hi, I’m Heather Oldfield, mummy, farmer’s wife, farmhand, Energy & Forage Manager for a UK seed breeder, clothes designer and evolving seamstress! I live in deepest, darkest rural Lincolnshire, land of big skies, vegetable and arable farms galore. Sewing has always simmered away in the background of my life, my mother was a textiles teacher, which I completely rebelled against as a teenager! In fact I didn’t touch a sewing machine after AS Level Textiles until I was 31, pregnant and in full nesting mode!
I began making clothes for my two girls, which led onto orders from friends, and friends of friends. My sister-in-law approached me about making a cape for a Christmas Ball, this also led to requests for ‘something similar’ in a different colour. I have always loved clothes, putting colours and fabrics together, and I’m a little quirky! Growing up in and living around agriculture my entire life means I’ve obviously been exposed to wool and tweed. My father was Scottish, and our family tartan is McDonald, I wore a kilt before I could walk.
I’m incredibly passionate about British produce of all kinds, I married a farmer after all, and chose a career in the UK agricultural industry. British tweed made from British wool was the obvious choice. I love how this product is so versatile, warm, cool, sustainable, environmentally friendly, traditional, adaptable, the adjectives are endless!!
Here are some tweedy facts which you might (or might not) find interesting;
Coco Chanel realised the joys of tweed in 1924 when borrowing sporting clothing from her beau, the Duke of Westminster. She subsequently had tweeds woven for her iconic ladies suits.
Plus fours are not trousers cut in half! They’re designed to make it easier for the wearer to crawl and crouch in the heather whilst stalking.
In actual fact, the word ‘tweed’ wasn’t originally meant be ‘tweed’ at all, but ‘tweel’. Legend has it that an old English cloth merchant mistakenly recorded the Scottish word ‘tweel’, meaning twill, as tweed –also probably influenced by the name of the River Tweed in Scotland.
A Tweed garment is one of the best clothing investments you will ever make, it is incredibly durable and if looked after properly will last a lifetime.
Some tweeds were used to barter with or pay rent in earliest times in Scotland; used as a currency by some weavers.
From starting this business in December 2017 I’ve had the best time, discovered so much about myself, and met and made some great friends. At the same time starting your own business is really hard, add a baby, farm, and ‘proper’ job into the mix and it becomes a whole different game! I have had moments where I’ve wondered what on earth I’m doing, wanted to lock myself in a cupboard and quietly pop my sewing machine by the bin for Wednesday collection! Then I get a picture from a customer, showing a happy son or daughter in one of the garments I’ve made, a lady all dressed up for a day at the races, or I wonder what I’m going to wear for work and put my hand on a ‘The Little Tweed Co’ clothing label. A comment pops up on social media complimenting a particular garment. Or I look at my girls and realise I don’t want to teach them to quit, I want to teach them to be driven and achieve.
My inspiration for each garment mainly comes from the countryside around me, natures palette is beautiful and so vast. I’m lucky enough to have met and now work with two brilliant tweed mills who understand our brand and share my vision. I do keep my eye on current fashion trends, some of these I blink and luckily miss, but some I try and incorporate in my designs. As a female in a male dominated industry (agriculture, not necessarily fashion) I still like to look feminine, I want my ladies garments to be practical but accentuate beauty and what it means to be a woman. I aim for this to come through in each garment.
Having two children and living on a farm I know how practical clothes need to be in a rural setting. All of my designs are tried and tested almost to breaking point! Tweed has been a stable in the countryman’s wardrobe for nearly 200 years because it is so durable, but remains smart.
I think I’ve waffled enough, but wanted to leave you with a little note about who has inspired me on my journey. Plus if you’ve read to this point, thank you, and well done!
She is going to hate me for this but Amy Conyard of Pin Gin. I first met Amy at International Women’s Day 2018 at Lincolnshire Showground. She gave a brilliantly moving presentation talking about her personal journey and her business one. We sat next to each other throughout the rest of the presentations, and lunch. Both relatively new mothers, striving to get new ventures off the ground. Amy, rather further ahead with her success than me, but I thought if this lady can be so open, kind, motivated, make and successfully market gin then surely I can make a few drawings into clothes!
Someone else I thought of often was an old family friend, she was a doctor, the first female medical officer attached to the household cavalry, awarded an MBE for gallantry in Bosnia, and took her beautiful horse from scratch to 5 star level Eventing. Her and I had many conversations when I was growing up about succeeding in a man’s world, dealing with boys, horses and generally how to always have a goal. Hard work does pay off eventually, and remember to never lose sight of that.
So The Little Tweed Co’s next steps are… immediately Burghley trot up… then approaching key wholesalers and sending samples… followed by making final decisions on Winter 2019 tweeds; I’m thinking warm browns, olive greens, sage, and the classic ever popular navy blue. Please let me know your thoughts!
With love and the best of British